Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
“We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave! “
Bahrain, a quiet little island with an ancient culture, always reminded me of the Eagles hit song, ‘Hotel California’. I was lucky enough to visit many places in the Middle East including Dubai, Oman, Jordan and Lebanon but I enjoyed it best staying in Bahrain.
But it is time to bid a final farewell as we head back home – there are lovely memories of the place and its people that will stay forever.
Am staying at a friend’s place as I pen down my thoughts – it is a bit late by local standards as tomorrow is a Sunday and the start of a new week at Office. My preoccupations are slightly different though – in couple of day’s time we will be headed to my home town, Pune. With it will come to an end an adventure of over 4 years – the longest stint in any city that I have had in my corporate career. My daughter’s is about 7 and all her memories as of now are about the place and its people; plus a sprinkling of the vacations she has spent in India every year.
I was quite used to the Corporate regimen of moving to a new role (usually with a change of location and boss) in every 18 – 24 months. So over a 15 year-long corporate career, bidding adieu to people and doing farewells was not that hard; I used to regard it as something that came with the territory. But my Bahrain stint has been very different – at 51 months this is the longest time that I have spent in a location and saying ‘bye bye’ was a tough one this time round. It could be that I am getting old and sentimental; but it is more likely that I just loved the life and the people were so very nice out here.
‘Mafi Mushkila’ – That’s the top Arabic phrase that I picked up. Loosely translated it means, ‘No Problem’. You will find it as a popular message of T Shirts that are picked up by visiting tourists. But it is really the attitude with the folks out here – they don’t mind their problems and difficulties in trying to oblige you. They wave you on and cheerfully say ‘Mafi Mushkila’.
Some of the other popular phrases that come to my mind would be, ‘Habibi’ (My love / my dear friend), ‘Shukran’ (Thank You), Yalla (Let’s Go), Na’am (Yes), La (No), Maafi (Nothing), ‘Khallas’ / ‘Khalli Walli’ (Its finished), ‘Allo’ (As in ‘Hello’, particularly over phone), ‘Marhaba’ (Hi/Hello as a Greeting wish when you meet someone).
Pedestrian’s Paradise – I don’t want to encourage jaywalking but the motorists in Manama really care for the average Joe on the street. They will politely brake their cars allowing you to cross the road. Not that people take undue advantage of it but all the same it is a culturally different experience particularly if you come from places where pedestrians are treated shabbily.
Good ‘Work-Life’ Balance – Corporate life pressures are on and it is fairly competitive. But folks care for family time and particularly time with their kids. So weekends are fun and vacation trips are always on. Every in the daily routine most people find some time for themselves and family in the evening.
New Gen is cool – So let us not talk stereotypes of folks who want assistance to get by with the ordinary demands of modern-day living. The young generation is really ambitious and savvy. So they know their English and they know technology. Kids in primary school are swamped with Ipads, Tabs and Iphones. It is cool to be on the right side of the ‘digital divide’.
It is a lovely little place – Compared to Dubai we lack the glitz and glamour. But even we have a favourite weekend spots and often end up meeting friends because there these few places that are really popular during the weekends. But hey that’s just nice as well, we don’t mind doing ‘tried-and-tested’ things. Some new treats do come our way as well.
So that’s it friends – some of the quick impressions I recall of my great stay here. I feel it in my bones that I will visit the place some time again for sure. Till then its time to say good-bye and carry on with the memories. So unlike the song, I am finally stepping out from the lovely place albeit with a laden heart.